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Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Like the University's Academic Standing Policy, the Financial Aid Office (FAO) Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is a Department of Education requirement for all students receiving financial aid funds. The Financial Aid Office (FAO) SAP process is run independently from the University Academic Standing process.

Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Federal and state regulations require that all students who receive financial aid maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP) toward their degree. SAP is a federal policy for all students receiving federal and/or state financial aid funds. 

The evaluation of SAP measures a student's progress three times per aid year and in three specific areas:

  • Qualitative (Grade Point Average)
    • A 2.000 cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) is required for a student to meet SAP.
  • Quantitative (Pace)
    • Students must complete at least 67% cumulatively of all attempted credits, also called Pace. The quantitative SAP evaluation looks at the cumulative number of credits a student has attempted and completed and their overall progress toward completing their degree.
    • All credits attempted will be factored into the pace calculation, including withdrawals, failures, repeated courses, and incomplete grades. Any of these will negatively impact a student's quantitative calculation; however, courses dropped during the published add/drop period do not count as credits attempted.
    • The Pace is calculated by dividing the number of completed credits by the number of attempted credits.
    • The student has attempted 36 total credits and completed 30 of them successfully; their cumulative pace is 83.333% (30 / 36 =.8333

    • Transfer credits are included in the calculation as attempted and earned credits for SAP. Please note that the University's academic standing policy evaluates only credits taken at Salem State, while the financial aid SAP policy includes transferred credits.
  • 150% Rule or Maximum Time-frame for Completion
    • Students receiving financial aid are expected to complete their undergraduate degree within 150 percent of the program's published length.
    • At Salem State, undergraduate programs require 120 credits for completion; students exceeding 180 attempted credits before degree completion will lose their eligibility for financial aid. Generally, for full-time undergraduate students, this is equal to six years. Students who have not completed their degree within these parameters are ineligible for financial aid.
    • 120 credits x 150% = 180 credits

Satisfactory Academic Progress Evaluation Periods

Salem State University's Financial Aid Office (FAO) evaluates SAP for each term a student is enrolled, including the Summer term. SAP is evaluated at the end of each term after the grading period for that term is closed.

Eligibility for Spring financial aid is reviewed at the end of the Fall term, and a student's eligibility for the upcoming Fall term will be evaluated at the end of the proceeding Spring term.

Students using financial aid toward their Summer classes will have their Summer aid eligibility evaluated at the end of the Spring term and re-evaluated for Fall aid after completing their Summer classes.

SAP is directly tied to financial aid. Students should know that their eligibility for the upcoming term will only be evaluated once a completed FAFSA is on file with the Financial Aid Office.

Generally, this is not an issue for students between the Fall and Spring terms; however, if, at the end of the Spring term, a student's FAFSA for the upcoming aid year has not been received, their eligibility for financial aid will not be evaluated until the Financial Aid Office receives a FAFSA. 

SAP Statuses and Impact on Students

SAP Alert

  • Students will receive an automatic email if their cumulative GPA is between 2.0 and 2.1 and/or their cumulative completion (Pace) percentage is 66.6-70%.
  • The alert is designed to allow students to seek support and take advantage of the many opportunities Salem State provides its students to take corrective academic actions. 
  • SAP ALERT does not impact a student's financial aid status or eligibility.

SAP Warning 

  • Students will receive an automatic email when their cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 and/or their cumulative completion (Pace) percentage falls below 66.6%.
  • A student receiving their first SAP WARNING will keep their eligibility for financial aid for the upcoming term.
  • If in that upcoming term (or the next term in which the student enrolls) a student fails to raise their cumulative GPA above 2.0 and/or their cumulative completion (Pace) percentage above 66%, their status will then change to SAP FAIL for either GPA, Pace, or both.

SAP Fail (SAP Probation)

  • Students will receive an automatic email when their cumulative GPA is below 2.0 and/or their cumulative completion (Pace) percentage falls below 66.6% for two consecutive terms. 
  • A student receiving an SAP FAIL will lose their eligibility for financial aid.
  • Students failing SAP will be granted the opportunity to appeal the loss of their aid eligibility with the Financial Aid Office (FAO). Students are allowed one SAP appeal in their academic career. 
  • Students on an approved appeal will be evaluated each term. Students must maintain a 2.0-term GPA and a term completion rate of 66.6%.
  • Students will remain on SAP Probation until their cumulative GPA reaches 2.0 and their cumulative pace again reaches 66.6%, or for three terms, whichever occurs first.

Satisfactory Academic Appeal Process 

Students receiving an SAP FAIL (SAP Probation) will be allowed to appeal the loss of their aid eligibility once in their academic career at Salem State University.

Appealing the loss of financial aid eligibility due to not meeting SAP is a three-step process. Students must first complete the Undergraduate SAP Appeal Form.

The two remaining pieces of the appeal process are the Student Self-Assessment Form, found on the University's Academic Standing Canvas Course, and an Academic Improvement Plan.

Students must complete an Academic Improvement Plan with an Academic Advisor in the Center for Academic Excellence. Instructions on scheduling an appointment are given at the end of the required Academic Standing Canvas Course. 

Please contact Academic Advising with any issues accessing the Canvas Course or with any questions regarding academic standing at 978.542.5500 or

The Financial Aid Office will not review a student's appeal unless all three pieces are completed.

Approved Appeals:

Students who complete the appeal process and have their appeal approved by the Financial Aid Office will be reviewed each term to determine if they are progressing.

Students on an approved appeal must maintain a term GPA of 2.0 and a term pace of 66% completion of attempted term credits as they work towards raising their cumulative totals of GPA and pace.

Students on an approved appeal who do not meet the term GPA and pace requirements (noted above) will lose their financial aid eligibility until they return to a positive SAP status with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and a cumulative pace rate of 66%.

After three terms, students on an approved appeal are expected to be in positive SAP status. If a student on an approved appeal has not reached a positive SAP status after three terms, they will lose their aid eligibility until they return to a positive SAP status.

Leave of Absence (LOA)

Students on an approved appeal who take an official Leave of Absence (LOA) must inform the advisor processing their LOA that they are on an approved SAP appeal. The advisor will notify the Financial Aid Office of the student's situation.

A LOA will result in withdrawal (W grades) for the term, which violates the students' academic improvement plan. The financial aid system will automatically assess all W's as violating the Academic Improvement Plan and cease the student's financial aid eligibility.

By notifying us of an LOA, the Financial Aid Office can determine if an override of the completion rate evaluation (pace) is warranted for the term in question.

If the Financial Aid Office determines a Pace override due to an LOA is not warranted, the result will be a violation of the SAP appeal, and the student will lose eligibility.

Maximum Time Frame Statuses and Impact on Students

Maximum Time Frame (150%) Warning

  • Students will receive an automated email once they reach 168 attempted credits.
  • Students receiving the 150% Warning notification should make an appointment with the Center for Academic Excellence to ensure they complete their requirements before they lose their aid eligibility.

Maximum Time Frame (150%) Fail

  • Once students have attempted 180 credits, they will have failed SAP, and their aid eligibility will cease.
  • The 150% Fail generally may not be appealed, but students reaching 180 credits may request a review of their attempted credits by the Financial Aid Office. The financial aid office will review a student's attempted credits and, under certain circumstances, can omit some credits from the overall calculation.

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